Canada is the largest source of U.S. energy imports and the second-largest destination for U.S. energy exports behind only Mexico. Energy is an important component of trade between Canada and the United States. In 2019, based on the latest annual Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) data from the U.S. Census Bureau, energy accounted for US $85 billion, or 27%, of the value of all U.S. imports from Canada. Crude oil and petroleum products accounted for 91% of the value of U.S. energy imports from Canada and 89% of the value of U.S. energy exports to Canada.
The United States exported US $23 billion worth of crude oil, petroleum products, natural gas, and electricity to Canada in 2019, about 8% of the value of all U.S. exports to Canada and the second-highest level recorded after peaking in 2014.
U.S. crude oil imports from Canada accounted for 56% of all crude oil imports to the United States in 2019, averaging 3.8 million barrels per day (b/d)—up from 3.7 million b/d in 2018. In 2019, the United States exported 459,000 b/d of crude oil to Canada, which remained the largest destination for U.S. crude oil exports. U.S. crude oil exports to Canada are typically light, sweet grades that are shipped to the eastern part of the country. U.S. crude oil imports from Canada tend to be heavy and are sourced from oil sands in Alberta (Western Canada), and most of these exports flow to U.S. Midwest refineries.
Crude oil trade by rail has become more attractive because pipeline capacity in Canada has at times been insufficient to accommodate Canada’s growing crude oil production. Consequently, U.S. imports of Canada’s crude oil by rail have more than tripled from an average of 91,000 b/d in 2016 to an average of 300,000 b/d in 2019. More than half of the crude oil volume imported by rail (171,000 b/d) went to the U.S. Gulf Coast region.
Petroleum product trade between the United States and Canada is relatively balanced in both volume and value. Canada is the largest source of U.S. petroleum and refined products imports. In 2019, the United States imported a record 610,000 b/d of petroleum products from Canada, or 26% of all U.S. petroleum product imports last year. These imports were valued at more than US $14 billion.
Natural gas trade between the United States and Canada is dominated by pipeline shipments, which accounted for 98% of all U.S. natural gas imports in 2019. Historically, the United States has imported more natural gas than it has exported by pipeline to Canada. Natural gas imports from Canada in 2019 totaled 7.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) and were valued at US $6 billion in 2019. Most of the natural gas the United States imported from Canada originated in Western Canada and was shipped to U.S. markets in the West and Midwest regions. U.S. natural gas exports to Canada mainly go into the eastern provinces of Canada.
Electricity accounts for a small—but locally important—share of U.S.-Canada energy trade. The electricity systems of both countries are fully interconnected markets, and they share more than 30 major cross-border electric transmission lines, which also supports electric system reliability. In 2019, the United States imported 52 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity from Canada and exported 14 million megawatthours (MWh) to Canada. The Pacific Northwest is a primary source of electricity exports to Canada and most electricity imported into the United States from Canada goes to states in the Northeast.
In late 2019, the United States, Canada, and Mexico signed a trade agreement (USMCA) that will go into effect in July 2020. According to a report from the International Trade Commission, the USMCA will likely have little effect on U.S.-Canada energy trade.
Principal contributors: Natalie Kempkey, ShaMyra Sylvester